Since the coronavirus sent the U.S. economy into a medically induced coma, more than 21 million jobs have been lost. And research shows women lost nearly 6 out of every 10 jobs across all sectors.

In April alone, women’s job losses were five times higher than the total lost during the Great Recession.

Nicole Mason, president and CEO with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said women are more vulnerable during economic downturns because, even though many are primary bread winners or make substantial financial contributions, they make less money.

“They earn lower wages compared to their male counterparts,” Masom said. “And what that means is that in times such as this, they have less money in savings, and they also have less money to provide for their families.”

Mason noted during the Great Recession, men were the first to be hit — largely in production sectors, such as manufacturing and construction. Because women are over-represented in the service sector, Mason said in this downturn, women are experiencing disproportionately higher unemployment and job loss.

Service-sector jobs tend to pay lower wages and offer fewer benefits, including health care and paid sick leave, and workers struggle to afford child care and still meet their basic needs. During the pandemic, Mason said, many women already stretched thin as both breadwinners and primary caregivers, now are also charged with teaching kids.

“And for women who are in lower-wage jobs or considered essential workers, this is really hard,” she sad, “because many of them have to make the choice of going to work and making a living, and taking care of their children.”

Mason said since many workers will not get their jobs back right away as the economy recovers, stimulus checks and unemployment benefits should be extended until everyone can go back to work.

She added lawmakers can close gaps exposed by the pandemic by raising the minimum wage and providing paid medical and family leave, child-care subsidies and other policies to support working families and women.

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